The Trump administration enters 2021 well short of its goal to vaccinate 20 million people by January 1, leaving state health officials across the country scrambling to ramp up a massive vaccine distribution effort that is crucial to defeating the pandemic and yet faces critical delays.
So far, just over 12.4 million doses have been distributed to states, yet only 2.8 million doses have actually been administered, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Some states have expressed disappointment with the rollout, acknowledging their own issues but also seeking more federal resources amid concerns about the burden they now have to get vaccines into patients’ arms. In several cases, local snafus on the ground have created their own delays, not to mention dangerous and costly mistakes.
In West Virginia, for instance, 42 people were mistakenly given a Covid-19 antibody treatment instead of the coronavirus vaccine, according to the West Virginia National Guard. In Wisconsin, police have arrested a recently fired pharmacist who they say removed 57 vials of the Moderna vaccine from a local hospital’s refrigerator and left them to sit out, leading to 500 doses being discarded.
With no federal mandate for how to administer the vaccine, it’s up to the states to decide who gets the vaccine and when, creating a confusing patchwork of rules that vary greatly across the country. While some states are focused exclusively on health care workers, others have started vaccinating the elderly and other frontline workers, too.
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced people over 80 were eligible to receive the vaccine on Wednesday, while Tennessee’s health department said it would begin administering the vaccine to residents 75 and older, teachers and childcare workers.
Florida has put in place a county-by-county plan for vaccinating its elderly population, leading to hours-long lines at vaccination sites in a southwest Florida county that was distributing on a first-come, first-serve basis.